Wisdom of Ben Sira 45

Chapter 45

Moses, Lawgiver and Servant of God[a]

1 From Jacob’s stock God raised up a devout man
who found favor in the eyes of all,
beloved by God and the people,
Moses, of blessed memory.
2 God made him equal in glory to the holy ones,[b]
and strengthened him, to the frightened consternation of his enemies.
3 At his word God caused signs[c] to cease
and raised him high in the regard of kings.
He gave him commandments for his people
and revealed to him a portion of his glory.
4 As a result of his loyalty and meekness, God consecrated him,
choosing him from all humankind.
5 He permitted him to hear his voice
and led him into the dark cloud,
where, face to face,[d] he gave him the commandments,
the law of life and knowledge,
so that he might teach his covenant to Jacob,
and to Israel, his decrees.

The Glory of Aaron the High Priest[e]

6 He also raised up Aaron, a holy man like Moses,
who was his brother, of the tribe of Levi.
7 He made an everlasting covenant with him
and conferred on him the priesthood[f] of his people.
He adorned him with splendid vestments
and gave him a robe of glory.
8 He clothed him in magnificent apparel
and invested him with rich ornaments:
the linen undergarments, the long robe, and the ephod.
9 To encircle the hem of his robe he gave him pomegranates,
with many golden bells all around,
to sound melodiously as he walked,
ringing aloud throughout the temple
as a reminder to his people;
10 with the sacred vestment of gold and violet,
and purple, the work of an embroiderer;
with the oracle of judgment, the sacred lots;
11 with scarlet thread, the product of an artisan;
with precious stones engraved like seals,
mounted in gold, the work of a jeweler,
to commemorate with inscriptions
each of the tribes of Israel;
12 with a gold diadem upon his turban,
inscribed with the seal of consecration,
majestic ornamentation, stupendous work,
a delight of rich adornment to the eyes.
13 Before him such beautiful things had never existed,
nor has anyone ever worn them
except for his sons
and his descendants throughout the ages.
14 Twice every day, without exception,
they present his sacrifice, to be wholly consumed.
15 Moses ordained him
and anointed him with the holy oil.
This was an everlasting covenant for him
and for his descendants, as long as the heavens endure,
that he should be God’s minister by means of his priesthood
and bless his people in his name.
16 God chose him out of all the living
to offer sacrifices to him,
incense and sweet-smelling oblations for a memorial,
to make expiation for his people.
17 He entrusted him with his commandments
and gave him the authority to enact laws and make judgments,
to teach Jacob his decrees
and to enlighten Israel in regard to his law.
18 Others became envious of Aaron
and conspired against him in the wilderness:
Dathan and Abiram and their followers,
and the band of Korah in defiant wrath.
19 The Lord saw this and was angered;
in his burning wrath he destroyed them.
He worked miracles against them,
as they were consumed in his blazing fire.
20 Then he increased the glory of Aaron
and gave him a heritage;
he allotted to him the choicest offerings of the firstfruits,
thus ensuring that they would have bread in abundance.
21 For they eat the sacrifices of the Lord
that he gave to Aaron and his descendants.
22 However, he has no inheritance in the land of the people;
he has no portion among them;
for the Lord himself is his portion and inheritance
in the midst of the Israelites.

Phinehas, Champion of God’s Rights[g]

23 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, ranks third in glory
because of his zeal in the fear of the Lord,
and for standing firm with noble courage of soul
when the people refused to obey;
and by so doing he made expiation for Israel.
24 Therefore, a covenant of friendship was established with him,
conferring on him the right to be in charge of the sanctuary and of the people,
so that he and his descendants should have
the dignity of the high priesthood forever.
25 Just as a covenant was established with David,
the son of Jesse, of the tribe of Judah,
that the royal succession was always to pass from father to son,
so the priestly succession was to pass from Aaron to his descendants.
26 And now bless the Lord
who has crowned you with glory.
May God grant you[h] a mind endowed with wisdom
to rule his people with justice,
so that the virtues of your ancestors may never vanish
and their glory may be passed on to all their descendants.

Footnotes

  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 45:1 Moses, who spoke with God and was liberator of his people, incarnates the law, i.e., the rule of life given by God to a people, the first five Books of the Bible that are the basic charter. He is the man of the Sinaitic Covenant (Ex 19).
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 45:2 Holy ones: i.e., the angels.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 45:3 Signs: i.e., the plagues by which the Egyptians were stricken (Ex 8–10).
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 45:5 Face to face: concerning the relationship Moses had with God (see Ex 33:11; Num 12:8; 1 Cor 13:12).
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 45:6 The author here gives more importance to the figure of the first high priest than do all the other Books of the Bible. He wishes to describe the origin of the liturgy in Israel and to express the happiness of the cultic life. In his view, God has a predilection for priests, who fulfill an irreplaceable role in the relations of humans with God and in the transmission of the law.
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 45:7 Priesthood: this priesthood of Aaron gave way to the priesthood of Christ (see Heb 7:18-28).
  7. Wisdom of Ben Sira 45:23 Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, is a secondary figure in the most ancient accounts (Num 25). Here, his role is highlighted to show the superiority of the priesthood over the royalty (v. 25) and to give a better understanding of the legitimacy of the priesthood of Jerusalem in a time when usurpers are no longer far removed.
  8. Wisdom of Ben Sira 45:26 May God grant you . . . : exhortation that the author directs to his contemporary priests.

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